I have had this title in mind FOREVER: “5 Meals With 5 Ingredients”.
But…it’s not working out. I don’t have enough recipes to write about, but I DID develop a method to my meal madness lately that I am happy to share.
Since Chris and I moved, he has been leaving earlier and coming home later. Since my commute to work is almost exactly the same distance it was before I moved, I have been cooking most days. I am a planner, so before we moved I was mentally preparing myself to go from cooking NEVER to cooking most of the time. And honestly, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought.
Incorporating more foods into my diet has helped a lot. I know this sounds pretty basic, but here is my new method for making dinner:
Protein. Vegetable. Carb.
That’s it. I guess most of you already knew this handy little formula. It seems pretty logical, right? But, for a while I was avoiding carbs. Then for years all I ate was carbs. Then for a while I didn’t want to cook anything. So, my balanced meals weren’t very balanced and I made myself a little confused. But I’m better now. This formula actually works if you DO need adjustments in your diet. For example, if you’re vegan, then your protein will be things like legumes and tofu. If you are low carb or slow carb, you might want legumes for your carbs. If you are paleo, you can incorporate some fruit as your carbohydrate.
Keep in mind, I am not suggesting you eat a loaf of bread for dinner every night. There IS such a thing as a healthy carbohydrate. Whole grain is more nutritious than processed white bread, and brown rice might be better for you than white rice. I also believe in moderation, but I don’t measure anything any more. I eat a little slower and I try to be aware of when I am not enjoying my food anymore. Sometimes I get full and I keep eating because my food is DELICIOUS, and sometimes I leave food on my plate.
I don’t think about fat much, or what is healthy and not healthy. I know that my basil pasta is more delicious with a bit of olive oil, and that my salad tastes way better with some dressing on it. I try to be aware of how many ingredients are in something, and making sure I know what the ingredients are and how to pronounce them.
What Protein, Vegetables and Carbs I Like
I LOVE gluten free pasta. I buy this one all the time and have found it at several Kroger’s and Whole Foods and it only takes about 8 minutes to cook. White rice cooks in 10 minutes, so that it what I usually use if I want rice. If you prefer brown rice, cook it in advance and freeze or refrigerate it. Lately, we have also been enjoying some locally made Artisan bread from Revival.
For quick meals, I love vegetables that steam easily because I can put it in a pot with a steamer and leave it alone for a few minutes. My favorites are broccoli, carrots, brussells sprouts, cauliflower and green beans. Besides steaming, I also love throwing veggies in a skillet. Onion, mushrooms and garlic will make your roommates drool when they come home. Frozen edamame can be thrown in the microwave in the bag you buy it in. Super easy and delicious!
I have really enjoyed incorporating more protein into my diet. I’m not going to lie – I started eating meat a couple times a week after being vegetarian or vegan for a while. I still prefer tofu. The trick is to cut it up and cook it on the skillet for as long as possible (adding lots of salt to dry it out.) For quick meals, I also love fish. Kroger often sells fresh fish pre-seasoned daily. It comes in a foil container so I can just stick it in the oven. But, you could also buy fish, season it will some pepper, lemon and butter, and out it in foil in the oven yourself. I also love having sausage, but ONLY fresh from Whole Foods because I know exactly what is in it.
Even though I wasn’t able to think of 5 recipes with 5 ingredients, I can make some suggestions that will help you develop your own 15 minute ingredients. I’ve gotten pretty good at this, and Chris and I have learned to shop so that we have at least a week’s worth of standby meals. Here are my tips:
- Start cooking the thing that takes the longest to cook FIRST. If I’m cooking tofu, I start the tofu first, then the rice or pasta, then the veggies last.
- Keep the ingredients simple. If I am looking up recipes, I won’t cook anything that has more than like 7 recipes.
- Cook things that don’t require much attention. All the things I cook don’t need to be stirred much, and a lot of it is cooked on the stovetop so I can keep an eye on everything at once.
The Recipe: Pistachio Maple Curry Tofu
I adapted this recipe from this website. What attracted me to it was 1) How FEW ingredients it has and 2) How quickly it cooks. I made a few adaptations, so I am writing it as I make it.
- 1 block firm tofu, sliced into 6 equal pieces
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- ½ cup shelled pistachios
- Cut up the tofu in small pieces – about 1 wide by 1/4 inch thick. Spray your skillet with a tiny bit of non-stick stuff (or oil). Spread out the tofu pieces so they do not touch. Sprinkle a ton of salt. Leave on Medium to High heat until the first side is brown, then flip and salt the other side.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients to ether (except the rice). I do NOT follow the recipe here. I start with the recipe, but if it doesn’t look like enough to cover the tofu, then I add more until I like it.
- After the tofu is done cooking, turn OFF the heat and pour the mixture over the tofu.
- Serve over rice.